Sick chickens with dislocated legs are a reality, says a breeder

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“We’re hustlers. We have one hall and store approximately 28,000 chickens in it. In a year, we can manage roughly seven shifts,” says Roman Jakoubek, director of the Batelov Agricultural Owners’ Association, in an interview for Seznam Zprávy.

At the end of January, an employee of the Defenders of Animals organization (OBRAZ) broke into the hall and filmed the breeding of conventional chickens there. He took other shots in poultry farms in Semtěš near Čáslav and in Slavětice near Týna nad Vltavou.

Decades ago, we decided that we wanted to breed special breeds of chickens to live shorter lives and give as much breast muscle as possible. And this is the result.

Roman Jakoubek, director of the Batelov Agricultural Cooperative

Animal defenders thus launched a campaign, which was joined by well-known personalities, such as singers Marta Jandová, Jana Fabiánová, actors Hynek Čermák and Václav Neužil. The organization is planning protests in front of stores. They demand better standards of chicken farming.

The veterinary administration did not find any violation of legislation in the footage, with the justification that this is simply how it looks in large farms. “Although we understand, of course, that some close-ups of sick and dead animals do not create a good impression,” said Petr Vorlíček, spokesman for the veterinary administration, for Seznam Zprávy.

Warning: Some scenes in this video are drastic.

Shots taken by OBRAZE in the Owners’ Association of Batelov near Jihlava.Video: IMAGE

The director of the Agricultural Cooperative of Batelov owners, Roman Jakoubek, is said to have nothing to be ashamed of in the footage. According to him, everything is in accordance with the regulations. However, he would welcome better conditions for raising chickens. The last third of the life of specially bred hybrids (type ROSS 308 or COBB 500), whose meat is most often found in Czech stores, is said to be not good and not all “turns” will be successful.

Beyond the animal organism

Is the footage taken by Animal Defenders in your lobby real? Dead, sick, disfigured chickens? Is this really what it looks like in large-scale chicken farms?

The footage I saw is real. I have nothing to be ashamed of. They correspond to Czech legislation. Details for sick chickens with dislocated legs, that too is a reality. We try to pick up sick and dead animals twice a day, but we don’t have a chance to look after all almost 30,000.

If the person who filmed there came to the hall the day after the stocking, he would have footage of the yellow Easter chicks that are in the ad. At that moment, chicks are beautiful. Then, on the seventh to tenth day, they molt, the yellow fluff disappears and the real white feathers begin to form. I estimate that those shots of them were taken just before they were taken out of storage, i.e. around 30 to 35 days old.

As chickens grow, their living conditions change. I’ll say it vulgarly. The bigger the chicken, the more it eats, the bigger the poop and the worse the litter. And as the chickens start to grow very quickly, they breathe more, more humidity is created and it is more difficult to maintain the correct climate, humidity and temperature in the hall and the bedding dry.

Photo: Jan Novák, Seznam Správy

Roman Jakoubek, director of the Batelov Agricultural Cooperative.

The footage shows chickens whose muscles are so big they can’t even stand on their feet.

Decades ago, we decided that we wanted to breed special breeds of chickens to live shorter lives and give as much breast muscle as possible. And this is the result. For me, it’s beyond the limits of their organism’s capabilities.

The end of a chicken’s life is not pretty

How would you say fast growing chickens actually have a life?

Straight up? I think that by the twenty-fifth day, and you can see it visually, they are enjoying it in the hall. The last ten days have been, as I would put it diplomatically… worse. Then the hall literally fills up with chickens before your eyes. You go there one morning, then the second time, and the hall is completely different. There you can see the biggest increase in muscle mass, which is roughly 100 to 150 grams per day.

Even their movement changes, the skeleton cannot support the muscles and their life is not satisfied. I’m not saying it’s abuse exactly, but it’s not nice. Of course, it also depends on the time of year and the quality of the litter. If you managed to keep it dry, the chickens are better off, if it gets wet, it’s stupid.

In some shots of OBRAZ, you can see the legs of chickens allegedly burned by their own feces. How do you succeed or fail in maintaining the right climate and dryness in the hall?

We do seven to eight tours a year in our hall. If I were to evaluate it flatly, the chickens are all fine until their twenty-fifth day of life and worse for the rest of their lives.

In some two or three turns, some endings will fail. This is usually in early spring or when the weather is nice in autumn. It may not be possible to keep dry high-quality bedding in the hall, then the chickens are dirty, wet and avoid wet places in the hall themselves, so their living space is reduced even more. They stick to each other, they overheat more and it’s not good.

We don’t meet even one star

How close are they to each other and in what minimum conditions can you keep them?

In our hall, the permitted density is 39 kilograms of live weight per square meter, which corresponds to approximately 18 to 20 chickens (the highest possible density in the Czech Republic, which is used by three farms, is up to 42 kg/m2, note ed.). We have artificial lighting in the hall, with which we observe the light regime of the length of day and night, so that the chickens can rest. We use straw as bedding and try to keep it dry and loose. Then there are other things that are given by legislation.

Has any food chain made a request to change or improve the lives of chickens?

Sometime last year we were notified by Penny Market that from 2026 we would have to switch to their welfare (chicken living conditions) which is stricter than our current legislation. From what I vaguely remember, it was about a lower stocking density of chickens, the addition of perches for roosting, and the like. But I don’t remember exactly (the editors asked for Penny Market’s opinion, but the chain has not yet responded to this request).

Animal defenders point out that in Belgium or the Netherlands, the Albert chain is committed to better living conditions for chickens according to the Beter Leven (Better Life) chart. How many stars would your breeding get?

We don’t meet even one star. We keep fast-growing, not slow-growing hybrids, we have 18 to 20 chickens per square meter in the hall, we have neither natural lighting nor free range. The only thing we meet is straw as bedding.

Beter Leven quality mark vs. Czechia

★☆☆ ★★☆ ★★★ IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Stocking density 12 chickens per m² 13 chickens per m² 11 chickens per m² 18-22 chickens per m²
Breed Slow growing Slow growing Slow growing Fast growing
Enriched environment Grain or straw, perch Grain or straw, perch Grain or straw, perch Dry and fluffy bedding
Natural light min. 20 percent of the hall Free range, 1 chicken per m² Free range, 1 chicken per 2 m² Hall, artificial lighting

Source: Beter Leven, SVS CR

How do you feel about the double standard regarding the requirements for a better life for chickens in different countries?

You know what, it’s about the fact that we are one big Europe, which for a while pretends to function as a whole, but the entities within it function differently. Even we farmers want animals, even though they have such a short life, to enjoy it as comfortably as possible. The only question is how the legislation helps us to do this and how the economy of operation. We do it in order to be at zero or in the plus, that is, a smaller number of chickens per hall yes, but the price must rise.

I would easily go from 18 to 12 chickens in the hall, I have no problem with that, but it means a third less income. The purchase price is now around 27 to 28 crowns per kilogram. If we reduced the number of chickens to twelve, the purchase price would have to rise to approximately 35 crowns. But that’s a very rough estimate.

So do you consider the PICTURE requirement to be the right direction?

Yes, and I will gladly go against it. Unfortunately, someone has to pay for it. I cannot afford to be in the red and subsidize production. So either some form of subsidy, which is a road to hell, or we all marry some quintuplet from the chain to make the chicken better off.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Sick chickens dislocated legs reality breeder

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